Shaun The Sheep

What a cool movie! Shaun The Sheep is the perfect film for kids of all ages, for several reasons.

First, it’s done via stop motion animation, which, if done well, is hard to resist. This film IS done well and has a charming story.

The film has no dialogue; the tale is told visually. Oh, there are grunts, sighs, gasps, burps, farts, chuckles and, of course, baaas. But if your two-year-old wants to scream and cry, she won’t cause other audience members to miss what’s happening.

Also, Shaun The Sheep is short, clocking in right around 80 minutes. By the time your child has finished his gummy bears, it’s time to go home.

Shaun the Sheep reminds me of some of the clever 1930s animation. Those cartoons with dancing farm animals and goofy plots (if any) depended heavily on music and sound effects to help tell their stories.

In this new film, Shaun’s boring routine on the farm is interrupted when a bus passes by. A sign on the bus suggests: “take a day off.” Shaun decides to make it happen. His fellow sheep lure the farmer into his travel trailer and send him into a deep sleep so they can sneak away. When the trailer rolls downhill, it gains enough momentum to take the farmer all the way to the big city.

The farmer is hospitalized and diagnosed with memory loss. Meanwhile, the sheep stowaway on a bus and make it to the big city. There they adopt disguises to elude the animal control officer, Trumper.

The farmer leaves the hospital and passes a barbershop where the clippers trigger his vague memory of sheep shearing. He walks in and clips the hair of a showbiz type who loves the cut. Mr. X (as he is now known) becomes a star stylist.

The sheep devise a plot to take the farmer back to the farm. A confrontation at the farm with Trumper wraps up the adventure.

Shaun the Sheep is big family fun. It’s rated PG for some rude humor, but is more than okay for all, in my opinion.

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ParaNorman

In the wake of the first few Pixar hits, many studios and production houses took shots at making animated movies. Dreamworks succeeded with the “Shrek” films, but others had problems.

In the last 15 or so years, we have seen tons of animated films that get a lot of things right, but fall short on that one key element: a good story.

“ParaNorman,” sadly, falls into that category. Like many of its animated brethren, it has a distinctive look, amusing characters and funny lines. But the plot is just not that good.

Norman is a kid who has that sixth sense: he can see and communicate with dead people. One of the deceased citizens of his small town shares information that leads him to try to break a centuries-old witch’s curse. Getting to that result is a roundabout cinematic journey.

“ParaNorman” looks great. It was shot in stop-motion 3-D by the same studio that made 2009’s “Coraline.” But here is the big difference: “Coraline” was based on a successful Neil Gaiman novel; “ParaNorman,” is an original screenplay, written by co-director Chris Butler.

For fans of stop-motion animation (myself included), “ParaNorman” is a must-see. For everybody else, it’s a maybe. There are some parts of the movie that may frighten younger children, but you know your kids better that I do. Parental guidance is suggested.